Lawyer tells B.C. court child sex offender should be released on time served

By The Canadian Press
April 22, 2016 - 11:00am Updated: April 22, 2016 - 4:45pm

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — More jail time is unnecessary for a notorious British Columbia pedophile who obscured his face behind a swirl in photos of himself abusing boys in Southeast Asia, his lawyer argues.

Christopher Neil, 41, has taken responsibility for the 2003 child-sex crimes that prompted international media to dub him “Swirl Face,” defence lawyer Mark Thompson told a B.C. Supreme Court.

He said further incarceration won’t help in Neil’s rehabilitation or reintegration now that he has pleaded guilty to five charges involving sex-crimes with children in Cambodia and child pornography in Canada.

Thompson told the judge on Friday that he and Crown are not far apart on sentencing, which involves a complicated formula taking into account the crimes that Neil admitted to in December.

But he disputed the Crown’s position that Neil should still serve about another year in prison. Thompson said Neil has been in segregation for the past two years awaiting trial and now wants to be released where he can work in the trades or teach adults.

“It’s going to be a tough time, but he’s an intelligent man, he has insight into the offences and that goes a long way in the file,” Thompson told reporters outside court.

Neil has admitted producing pornographic images for the Internet of himself with two boys under the age of 14 in Cambodia, in an impoverished town known for child-sex tourism.

Thompson told court that one of the boys, who was found by investigators and reported being 13 at the time, was not in a “sex-slave situation.” He explained the boy met with Neil after being asked by a woman who owned the house if he wanted to make some money.

He presented a report on Neil by a psychologist who supported an argument for release, noting his client poses low to moderate risk of directly reoffending. Neil’s risk is higher for offences involving child pornography, the report said.

Thompson told reporters Neil has set goals for himself to be achieved on release.

“To be able to be comfortable with his sexuality, assert himself in relationships and develop mature relationships,” said Thompson, who had told court Neil is attracted to men.

The Crown is seeking a five-year sentence, which was revised on Friday in court to amount to about one more year after accounting for time Neil has served awaiting trial.

Court has heard Neil conceded to the Crown’s psychiatrist that he took pornographic pictures in 2003 of himself disguised by a swirl with two boys in Cambodia because he felt there wasn’t enough of such material online.

Neil, who the court has heard has been diagnosed a pedophile, has also admitted to accessing child pornography when he returned to B.C. after serving nearly five years in prison for molesting two boys in Thailand.

He has also admitted to a charge involving possessing child pornography — which the Crown says amounts to thousands of images — that was found in a family storage locker in 2007.

Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

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